The necessity of wearing a mask can make outdoors work harder, Cal-OSHA warns.
“Employers should be aware that wearing face coverings can make it more difficult to breathe and harder for a worker to cool off, so additional breaks may be needed to prevent overheating,” an agency spokesman said by email. “Workers should have face coverings at all times, but they should be removed in outdoor high heat conditions to help prevent overheating as long as physical distancing can be maintained.”
The agency added that high humidity limits the body’s ability to cool through evaporation, increasing the risk of heat illness. It also said that while poor air quality doesn’t directly increase the risk of heat illness, “it can increase cardiovascular risks and put additional strain on the body’s cardiovascular system, which may also be stressed in high heat conditions.”
Pete Belluomini, vice president of farming operations at Lehr Bros. Inc., said he’s grateful his crews recently finished up the potato harvest and are therefore less busy now than before. Workers are now cleaning up fields in preparation for the next season, which is mercifully less work during this time of year, he said.
Lately crews are starting their days at 5:30 a.m., which he said is pretty standard for this time of year. Although some workers would rather work longer hours, he said employees get dismissed when it gets too hot.
“When you’re getting in the 90s and you’re starting to flirt with 100, it’s time to shut it down,” he said.